In my last post, I wrote about Freighter’s struggle with in line marks. This is an advanced concept and one that he has had difficulty with since he was first introduced to it. When training difficult concepts, patience is a must. The dog may not get it the first time or even the 50th time. When training difficult concepts sometimes you have to step back, break it down and simplify.
Going Backwards To Move Ahead
I think for some trainers going backwards is a hard thing to do. You have trained your dog to have skills at a certain level, and the idea of going backward is never appealing. However sometimes it is necessary to do just that in order to move the dog’s training forward. It is not a condemnation of the dog or his training. In fact, the best trainers have no issue taking a step back when warranted.
Freighter struggled with a set-up that included a triple with two in line marks, (in line marks are where the bumpers fall one in behind another). That showed us that he was still not clear on the concept of in line marks. Rather than giving up or making him run the same set-up until he got it, we simplified it to single marks. We threw the same two marks as the first time (mark #1 and mark #2) and added a third (mark #3).
This was the set-up:
Freighter’s issue the first time he tried to retrieve in line marks was getting fooled by one mark falling behind another. He picked up a mark and then broke down and hunted the same area where he had picked up the mark and never got far enough out to the other mark.
We hoped that by running these as three single marks, it would reinforce that Freighter needed to push past the area where he already picked up a bumper to get to the one farther out. Single marks are much easier because the dog just needs to see and remember one spot at a time.
Freighter pinned all three of these marks without needing to hunt for them. He did not break down and hunt an area where he picked up a closer bumper on the way to a farther one as he had the first time around.
Putting The Combination Back Together
Since Freighter had no issue retrieving in line marks as singles, that told us that he was really close to understanding this concept.
We decided to flip the set-up to the other side of the field and run an in line double with a blind.
We switched to the other side of the field to give Freighter a different look at what was basically the same set-up but threw them in a different order, (this order made it a bit easier, but we are still teaching and wanted Freighter to have success). Freighter had already run a set-up on the other side of the field twice and in all likelihood would have remembered the falls if he had run it a third time. We did not want that. We really wanted to see if he was beginning to understand the concept of in-line marks. We added a blind because–why not? It gave our set-up a bit of extra training value.
Freighter did great on this double. He watched both bumpers fall in the field and then retrieved mark #2 and went right out and got mark #1. The way we set this up, he had to run right over the area he picked up mark #2 to get to mark #1. He was not fooled by this and made clean work of the retrieves. He also did a nice job on the blind.
Training Difficult Concepts–Training In Line Marks Is Not Finished
Once Freighter finished this set-up, we were done for the day. We wanted Freighter to think about and absorb this concept. We need to proof it by having him run it in multiple locations and in multiple configurations. We also need to add back in that third mark to further stretch his memory. If necessary we will step back again, but we are hoping that in line marks are finally starting to make sense to Freighter. Training is an ongoing process. Training difficult concepts is not a once and done proposition.